Wonky Muse
Wonky Muse

September 29, 2007

The Initiative Racket

As I noted in my post about the California Electoral Initiative below, Take Initiative America (TIA) was set up in some podunk town in Missouri. This makes it obvious that out of state interests and not a local grassroots movement was backing the initiative. That and that TIA's founder, Charles Hurth III, refused to disclose the source of its money in spite of the Democrats threatening legal action indicates that it's trying to bury the true source of its largesse. Now we find out why:

Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund executive and Giuliani policy adviser, acknowledged his role to the New York Daily News on Friday just a day after GOP organizers in California said they were folding their effort to collect signatures for the group called Californians for Equal Representation.

...Singer revealed himself to the newspaper as the key contributor in the effort. Singer is a founding partner of Elliot Associates - a $7 billion hedge fund reported to be a longtime backer of GOP causes.

Singer is a member of Giuliani's national finance committee and has generated more than $500,000 for the Republican's presidential campaign.
What's bothersome is this: would we have found out Singer's identity if he didn't come forward and "reveal" himself? Would the media have dug deeper into the mysterious TIA? Are there other unnamed financiers aside from Singer behind TIA and the framer of the initiative itself, Californians for Equal Representation? How deep exactly does this wormhole go?

Writer/journalist Hart Williams, who has done extensive research on this dangerous trend, addressed all this at the Democratic Daily and in his interview with NOW in 2006. An excerpt:

NOW: What's your take on the ballot initiative process itself? They're clearly controversial: many people love them for their ability to put the power of lawmaking directly into the hands of citizens, and many others hate them for the very same reason. Where do you come down?

Williams: They were originally a necessary check on the power of a few powerful robber barons to block pieces of legislation that a clear majority of citizens considered necessary and proper. When initiatives are used that way, I think they're a fine thing. But in the past decade or so, we've seen that flipped on its ear: the robber barons use it to block the legislature instead. The whole thing is upside down.
As Williams pointed out, there has lately been a pattern of big money circumventing the law by using state initiatives. They take their issues "straight to the people" instead of going through the legislative process where the chance of passage is either nil or slim. The problem is, the people of the state are often deceived as to the real purpose of these initiatives and as to who are really behind them.

Unfortunately, attention is often narrowly focused on the initiative alone and wanes after it is voted on, while its wealthy backers go largely unscrutinized and push more self-serving initiatives that will tip the scales of power in their favor.

This has to stop, and the first step to stopping this is to follow the money and demand full disclosure.

posted at 3:06 AM by Wonky Muse

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"Sapere Aude."
(Dare to Know)
-- Epistularum Liber Primus, Horace

Wonk (noun): def. A political nerd. Know spelled backwards.

Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.


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